Microscope add-on could be a game-changer for 2D, 3D brain imaging

Researchers have developed an add-on for laser-scanning microscopes that can improve the quality of 2D and 3D imaging of the brain, according to a new study published in Optica.

The add-on, called PySight, includes both hardware and open-source software. A laser-based imaging technique called multiphoton microscopy is often used to capture high-quality 2D and 3D images of neurons, blood vessels and other parts of a patient’s brain, the authors observed, but it can be difficult because the images must be taken quickly. This results in fewer photons being visible in the final image.

“To overcome this hurdle, microscopists have used a detector-readout method called photon counting,” research team leader Pablo Blinder of Tel Aviv University in Israel, said in a prepared statement. “However, because its implementation required extensive electronics knowledge and custom components, photon counting has never been widely adopted. In addition, commercially available solutions were ill-suited to perform very fast imaging such as required for 3D imaging.”

PySight helps specialists get past these problems, Blinder added, and has potential to advance brain imaging research going forward. The way it stores data for each photo helps specialists image “large volumes over long sessions, without compromising spatial or temporal resolution.”

In addition, since the software is freely available, Blinder said it helps researchers capture clearer images without breaking the bank in the process.